It was with a mixture of pride and melancholy that I received the news that MoCCA was being absorbed into the Society of Illustrators. Pride in seeing how far it had come. Y’see, I was there at the beginning. I remember our planning sessions over coffee at the Union Square Barnes and Noble and our first home sharing a lawyer’s office at 32 Union Square East. I remember all the nerves over the first MoCCA Art Festival. Would it be a success? Would New York support this kind of event? It seems self-evident now, but there were real doubts back then.
And then of course there was the Museum itself. I’ve heard the odd quibble about this exhibit or that, or about the direction of the museum from the chorus of keyboard know-it-alls. But for ten years, in the most difficult of climes, MoCCA did much worthy work to educate, preserve and promote the art of comics and cartoons and their creators. We can only hope that tradition continues in its new home.
Hanging out in Art Spiegleman’s apartment.
Getting an email from Neil Gaiman.
Partying with Long Island’s own Berndt Toast Gang at the legendary Bunny Bash.
The utter incongruity of a struggling 20-something like myself gladding hands in Steve Forbes personal galleries with the likes of Joan Rivers.
Carrying a large-screen television through the sultry streets of New York in June for one of the programs of the first MoCCA Art Festival.
Getting interviewed on live, early-morning television by News Channel 12, bleary-eyed from my cousin’s wedding the night before.
Watching a certain well-known creator from the Cartoon Network dancing shirtless and grinding MoCCA’s very surprised Founder and Chairman (yes, I went there).
But mostly I remember the remarkable people who were there at the beginning, making it all happen: Ken Wong, Jim Salicrup, Kristen Siebecker, Fred Van Lente, Liz Gorinsky, Alex Simmons, Kent Worcester, Ted Rall, Roger Reed, Lisa Harris, Chris Brimacombe, Klaus Janson, Sandy Schecter, Miriam Katin, Anne Carlton and everyone else who was there in the early days (if I’ve forgotten you on this list, I apologize). It was my privilege and pleasure to work with you. And much credit and thanks to Ellen Abramowitz and all of the dedicated folks who’ve kept it going all these years.
Finally, my most heartfelt thanks to Lawrence Klein. Without his vision, tenacity and enthusiasm, comic art still wouldn’t have a cultural home in the city of its birth. It isn’t often in this life that you meet someone who Dreams Big and then Makes It Happen. Lawrence is one of those people.
So wither the melancholy?
Because in many ways, it’s the end of an era. Don’t get me wrong: whatever circumstances dictated this move, MoCCA could hardly ask for a better home than the Society of Illustrators. But, just as there were at MoCCA’s birth, questions arise: Will the character of MoCCA change, and to what extent? Will its mission to preserve and promote comic and cartoon art continue to be pursued with such dedication and enthusiasm? Might it become a stepchild of sorts to the older institution? Or will it rise to new heights under their auspices?
I wish The Society of Illustrators all the best in this new endeavor. One thing is certain: they have a lot to live up to.